How to Engage "Math Haters" In A Chemistry Classroom

Updated: Apr 17, 2019

One of my greatest struggles as an analytically minded science teacher, is engaging my students who “hate math” and don’t think the same way that I do. This is a challenge that I will continue to work on, but in this post, I want to share a method that I have found to be effective in teaching my “math haters.” I learned about this from one of my friends who is a math teacher and am passing it along to you.

One of the questions that I think is so important to continually ask ourselves is, “What do I want my students to learn and how can I effectively assess the learning process?” This question can be answered very quickly, but I want to encourage you to really think about it, beyond the surface level answers, every single time you prepare a lesson and assessment.

As a chemistry teacher, I want my students to have a strong understanding of chemical concepts, and therefore, want to assess this understanding. However, far too often I end up really just assessing my students algebraic prowess (which, although important and fundamental to the understanding of the subject, is not my ultimate goal).

So, I want to share a method that I have found is effective in:

  1. Ensuring that I am assessing students understanding of chemistry concepts instead of algebraic steps.

  2. Forcing students to use higher order thinking skills instead of simply memorizing a list of steps.

  3. Incorporate more opportunities for writing in the math and sciences.

Basically, instead of providing students with a list of steps that they must complete, the instructor provides the student with a correctly answered problem and then has the student write the individual steps. By reversing the roles, students are forced to problem solve and use critical thinking skills instead of simply memorizing a list of rules or steps.

Additionally, this method helps to identify gifted students who are often overlooked because of their average performance in math and science classes. By reversing the roles and having students explain mathematical or scientific processes, the instructor is able to determine if the student is struggling with the concept or with the numbers.

I am not saying that this is the only method that should be used when teaching math. Students need to be able to successfully complete mathematical problems in their math and science classes. However, it provides teachers with a tool be able to better identify student’s individual learning needs and be able to move forward accordingly.

Allow me to share a way that I have used this method in my classroom:

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